For over three decades, a revolutionary impact of microfluidic technology on science and industrial applications has been envisioned; however, such predictions have not been met regardless of a large number of academic publications and even patents. Fervently, the number of publications rose from a few dozen publications per year in 2000 to the thousands in 2012; yet a killer application has not been realized either for academic research nor for the industry1. The obvious question is why the gap between the proof-of-concept microfluidic development found in these publications and the mainstream market has not yet been breached. (more…)
Harnessing the potential of microfluidics applications is underway in every corner of the globe, and stretching out to deep space as well.
In Japan, cancer researchers are building microfluidic chip cell sorters for capture and analysis of Circulating Tumor Cells (CTC), an endeavor that historically has ranged from challenging to impossible. Their “On‐chip Sort” detected and captured rare CTCs from patients with lung adenocarcinoma, which have typically been undetectable. Mutation detection using isolated CTCs is their next goal. (more…)
In conventional laboratories, a range of available technologies enables scientists to genetically engineer cells, study their migration patterns, determine their mechanical properties and even analyze genetic differences. Nevertheless, protocols for such experiments are set in place by standard equipment and commercial kits, often requiring considerable labor and cost. Although some degree of flexibility is permitted in the alteration of certain parameters, results could be compromised by such change. As such, most biologists are typically averse to making changes to their setup. Performing experiments has thus far meant using gold standard instruments from established pharmaceutical and biotechnological companies. For example, one could start their day preparing 10 L of media for culturing microorganisms in a large chemostat; use a DNA extraction kit to lyse the cells, numerous rounds of centrifugation; DNA purification; proceed on to amplification and target detection using a benchtop real-time Polymerase Chain Amplification (rt-PCR) machine. However, consider this. What if a device the size of a standard laboratory glass slide is able to accomplish these steps from cell culture to mutation identification in half the time and perhaps even half the cost? (more…)
Science and technology are becoming more democratized, and more a part of public debate. At the same time, there is great distrust towards advanced biomedical and life sciences technology1. Public relations and controversy management are very important, but underrated, skills for scientists. It is a good practice to make a habit of imagining how a topic or technology may be presented by the media and perceived by the public. Organ on a chip devices may be a good exercise on how scientists could influence how their work may be received. (more…)
In the past decade, technology advances have focused on generating comfort for a few. However, academics and entrepreneurs are shifting the luxury trend in order to serve society as a whole.
Scientific research was never meant to stay on papers. Just as Lab-on-a-Chip devices true destiny is in poor communities in developing countries. Academics all around the world have worked with a Lab-on-a-Chip concept, imagining that the power of a state-of-art laboratory could fit in their pocket. Contrary to popular belief, engineers and scientist are highly creative people, otherwise, they wouldn’t be able to imagine complex micro-manufacturing of chips to make health testing easier.
Jules Verne, a French author, image a vehicle that could go underwater in “Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea.” Years later, visionary scientists were able to make a submarine made true. The military industry propelled this and others innovations, but after the war, they have been able to serve in deep oceans explorations. Today’s battles are not fought on fronts but with corruption and poverty.
Lab-on-a-Chip is both a device and a sensor. By being a device the size of a human palm, the transportation is made easier. But in order to work as a laboratory, sensors need to be attached to the micro canals of the device. Inspiration à la Verne was what made Marc Madou build a Lab-on-a-Chip in the size of a CD-Rom. The professor of University of California, Irvine and of Tecnológico de Monterrey (Mexico) realized that while predecessors have managed to create the device and the sensors, there was still a need to analyze the results of the tests. (more…)